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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. Hera is finally reached, and while the vultures gather, Mal and the crew begin. NEW CHAPTER
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1872 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Gabriel stepped quietly into the storage locker everyone called Eden, and smiled. “I didn’t know there could be such places on ships like this.”
Simon looked up from the ViroStim, then glanced at the bins, overflowing with greenery. “It’s River’s work,” he explained. “Keeps her grounded. A sort of … therapy. At least partly.”
“And what’s the other part?”
“She wanted to give something back to the crew. To the people who made us family.”
“She loves them that much.”
Simon nodded, smiling slightly. “She planted strawberries for Kaylee. And she’s getting quite good at growing vegetables, which augments our sometimes bland diet.”
Gabriel ran his hand through the soil. “You know, if you need money so that you can have better food -”
“No.” There was no heat in the word, nor coldness either, just a tone that would brook no argument. “We do okay. There’s jobs, and when there isn’t … we cope.”
“It sounds a hard life.”
“It can be. Sometimes. Then there are times when Mal sets us down on a moon with a beach and a warm ocean, and it can be the best life ever.”
“And do you call him father like River does?”
Simon laughed. “No. Oddly enough, I don’t. But I can understand why she does.” Daddy will come, and take us home. He hadn’t understood then, thought she was talking about the man standing in front of him, but he’d come more and more to the conclusion that she was talking about Mal.
“I have to say, I’m jealous.”
“If it helps, it makes Mal feel very self-conscious sometimes.”
Gabriel chuckled dryly. “Actually, you know, I think it does.”
The ViroStim beeped, just a single sound that made both men stop.
“What’s that?” Gabriel asked.
“The AntiPax.” Simon went down onto his heels and opened the side of the machine, sliding out a tray of tiny ampoules.
“Can I help?”
Simon looked up into his father’s face, and for once saw nothing but honesty there. “Yes. If you’d like. I need to get these ready.”
“Of course.” He followed his son out of Eden.
“Can I help?” Breed asked, leaning into Columbine’s engine room.
“No, no,” Kaylee said, pushing her hair out of her face. “I think I got this handled.” She screwed the last of the canisters together before placing it with the others.
“Only you haven’t stopped since we left the Arachnids.”
“Not like it’s been that long.” The ship shuddered as they dropped into atmo. “Although I’m glad I finished ‘fore she started doing that. Feels like the Cap’s flying.”
“No, it’s Dillon.”
“Oh.” She chuckled. “Sorry.”
“I take it Mal isn’t the best pilot in the ‘verse.”
“No. Not really. But that’s why he has Hank. And Frey, a’course, only that ain’t the only reason he’s got her.”
“I mean, he can fly well enough, pretty good if it’s a straight line, but there are others better.”
“Kaylee, I understand.”
The vibration ceased as Columbine passed into quieter air.
She glanced at him. “Could you bring this box?” she asked, lifting up a sack herself. “Only I can’t really carry both.”
“Your wish is my command.” He grinned and picked up the crate, surprised at its weight.
“Don’t drop it,” she cautioned.
“I’ll try not to.”
They headed for the small bay.
“There it is,” Hank said, manoeuvring the Firefly into position.
Freya looked down, seeing River’s drawing become real beneath them. “Remember, come in from -”
“The north, I know.” He adjusted their heading, and for just a moment they saw a large stone building sitting snugly in the landscape. He cleared his throat. “That it?”
“The Abbey? I suppose it must be.”
“Doesn’t look like much.”
He glanced at her. “You can feel her, can’t you? This Mara Tam. Like River does.”
“A little,” Freya admitted. “Nowhere near as clearly, but … it’s like an itch I can’t scratch.”
Hank smiled humourlessly. “One way or the other, I don’t think you’re going to have to worry about that for much longer.”
Jayne packed the last of the grenades in the small backpack, then turned to his ammo, making sure every compartment on his belt was full. His attention, though, was caught by River standing motionless by the empty crib. “He’s safe, moonbrain.”
“And you’ll be seeing him again soon.”
“Then we need to get ready.”
She sighed softly, running her hand down the designs Jayne had carved. “I miss him.”
He wanted to comfort her, to hold her until she understood, but there wasn‘t time. “Me too. Come on, River. Shake yourself.”
She could feel Mara in her mind, pressing against her emotions, and with a swift, sure hand picked up one of her pistols, checking it was loaded before sliding it into its holster, using the action to push back at the intrusion.
Better, Jayne thought to himself. Then quietly, when he was sure she wasn’t looking, he picked up one of the small stuffed toys from the box against the wall and tucked it into his vest.
A judder ran through Serenity’s superstructure.
“We’re down,” River said, barely able to hold the love she felt for her Jayne under control, knowing he was taking a tiny part of Caleb with him.
As Serenity’s ramp lowered into the dust of Hera, Kaylee could barely wait for it to kiss the dirt before she sprang out of Columbine‘s airlock, running into the cargo bay and throwing herself at her husband.
“Bao bei,” he said, holding her close and showering kisses on her face. “Are you all right?”
“We’re fine,” she said, trying hard not to cry. It had been less than a day since she’d seen him, but it seemed like half a lifetime. “We’re both shiny.”
“I’d like to check you over, nevertheless,” he said, trying to get her moving towards the infirmary. “Just to make sure.”
“Only if you can do it in about five minutes,” Mal said, striding up the ramp himself and pulling Freya into his arms. “That’s about all the time we’ve got.”
“What do you mean?”
Kaylee wriggled a bit in his arms. “Iolanthe’s back up and running. And I don’t think her captain’s gonna be very pleased with what I did to ‘em.”
“It looked like they’re going to be heading this way,” Dillon added, joining them in the bay.
“Ah.” Simon could see that was likely to be a problem.
“Kaylee, you go get that stuff you were working on,” Mal ordered. “There’ll be plenty of time for long hello’s when we get back.”
Reluctantly, the young mechanic let go of her husband, and backed towards the doors. “Don’t you go anywhere without me, y’hear?” she said before turning and running for Columbine.
“Is she ever likely to slow down?” Dillon asked.
“I doubt it,” Simon said, watching her leave, then finding someone at his elbow. “Mal.”
“Simon.” The captain of Serenity steered the young doctor to one side. “Got me a favour to ask.”
“What is it?”
“Do you have the formula for the two antidotes yet?”
“As it happens, yes. The ViroStim finished just a few minutes ago. I have both of them.”
“Good. Get ’em to Hank. I want them broadwaved, as far as we can get ‘em.”
“Yes, but we still don’t know if the -”
Mal put his hand on the doctor’s shoulder, silencing him. “I know that, Simon. But even if it doesn’t, at least it’s a starting point. And we do know one of ‘em works, otherwise Hank wouldn‘t still be up on the bridge annoying me.”
Simon stared into his blue eyes, and nodded. “Yes, Mal. I’ll send it up straightaway.” He hurried through into the common area.
“So,” Mal said, with somewhat forced jollity, rubbing his hands together. “Do we know where’re we’re going?”
“We do, sir,” Zoe said. “Thanks to River.”
“Why doesn’t that surprise me?” He looked around. “Where is she, by the way?”
“Getting her weapons together with Jayne,” Freya said. “The amount she said they were bringing, I’m surprised either of them will be able to walk, let alone fight.”
“I have the feeling we’re gonna need every one of ‘em.” He smiled slightly. “So what did she say?”
“There’s a maze of corridors and rooms cut into the bedrock,” his wife explained. “River drew it for us and we scanned it in.” She held out a small reader. “She’s marked where we need to go.”
“And do we know how to get in?”
Zoe nodded. “Yes sir. River’s found a well shaft. It goes down all the way to the lower levels.”
“And how, exactly, are we going to get down it?”
“Rope, sir.” Zoe indicated the great reel of cable waiting by the stairs.
“How close to a big drop at the other end is barely?”
“A few feet.”
He raised one eyebrow. “Fine. Only Jayne’s going first so he can catch the rest of us.”
“Cap?” Kaylee was back, this time with Breed carrying the box, while she had a sack in her arms.
“All done?” Mal asked.
“Yes sir, Cap’n.” She nodded towards the crate. “All set. Just twist the top, press the green button the number of minutes you wanna wait, then press the red. After that it’s just a case of run like hell.”
“Shiny.” Remembering the AI ship, he added, “How big a bang you think it’s likely to be?”
“Pretty big,” Kaylee admitted. “And it’ll keep burning ‘til there’s no metal left. We don’t wanna be anywhere close when it blows.”
Mal licked his lips. “Right.” He looked around his crew. “Freya, you take three, Zoe three and Jayne the rest. Gives us a better chance of success.” He looked at the sack. “And what’s in there?”
Kaylee grinned. “Just something I was able to knock up. They’re boosters for our coms. They won’t reach far, certainly not far enough to send that message, but it’ll mean we can talk to each other over the jamming. We plug one in at the surface, take the others with us and leave ‘em at strategic intervals.”
“Good thinking. It’ll surely help ‘fore we can take the jamming equipment down. But you ain’t coming.” He took the sack from her unresisting fingers then looked up. She was staring at him.
“What did you just say?”
“You ain’t coming. I need you here with Hank.”
The look became a glare. “If’n you’re saying just because I’m pregnant that I can‘t -”
“Partly, yes. I ain’t risking that small baby, Kaylee. But it’s more than that. I need someone here I can trust to look after the Tams. And you have to help Hank. That message needs to get out to as many and as far as we can send it.”
“Captain … Mal …”
“We got Alliance and Reavers breathing down our necks up here, and those New Browncoats down below.” He barked a laugh. “We got ourselves in a real vice this time, but knowing you’re safe is gonna mean one less person to worry about. Well, two, in your case.”
Her glare softened. “Only it ain’t gonna stop you worrying, is it?”
“Well, no, but -”
“It’s okay.” She touched his hand. “I ain’t a fighter, I know that. I won’t like it, but I’ll stay. And we’ll get that message out, don’t you fret.”
“Wasn’t planning on the fretting part.” He smiled at her. “Now go help your husband make sure he’s got everything we need.”
He watched her run for the infirmary, and wondered why it had to be only with the prospect of imminent death that his crew actually obeyed him.
“We want to come. We want to help.” This was Gabriel, stepping down into the cargo bay.
Mal shook his head. “Nope. This ain’t your fight.”
“Of course it is. If we hadn‘t sent River to that awful place -”
“And you can handle a gun, can you?” He sounded blunt, hard, but there was no time for subtlety. “You can kill a man who’s trying to kill you?”
Regan’s hand flew to her mouth, but Gabriel stood firm.
“If needed, yes.”
Mal studied the older man. “You know, I think maybe you could. But I ain’t gonna put it to the test. You’re staying behind. End of story.”
“Besides, you’re not needed,” River said, having come out of the shuttle. She was standing on the catwalk, for once in a pair of pants but with her pretty pink dress over the top. Crossed over that were her bandoleers, pistols under each arm.
Regan looked up. “Merciful Buddha, River …”
Her daughter came down the stairs, Jayne at her back. She spoke as she walked, her boots making hardly a sound on the metal steps. “Father, if you came with us, we’d have to look after you all the time, no matter how good your intentions. And we need to be focused, or we won’t survive.”
Gabriel felt every word like a blow to his belly. “But you’re going.”
“I’m what they made me. A killer.”
“No, River …” He couldn’t help thinking of the tiny baby he’d held in his arms, barely an hour old, while her mother slept. He’d promised to look after her forever that night, never knowing that forever was only fourteen years.
“Not a baby. Not any more. A wife and mother, and a crazy lunatic assassin.” She spoke matter of factly, as if she was discussing the weather, and Jayne growled in agreement.
“But you can’t possibly -”
“No point arguing what’s already been decided,” Mal broke in. “River’s going, you’re staying on board. That’s it.”
Gabriel went to speak again, but Regan took his arm. “Yes, Captain,” she said, holding her husband back.
Mal nodded. “Good.” He turned to his ex-mercenary. “Jayne, get that rope to the well. River, go with him and make sure it’s fastened secure - I don’t feel like taking a long jump down a deep hole worrying it’s gonna come loose.”
“On it, Mal.” The big man picked up the reel with barely a grunt, disappearing outside with it.
River looked at her parents, at least the ones that had brought her almost to adulthood. “We might all still die, you know,” she said seriously. “And I will miss you.” Quickly, and almost too fast for them to feel it, she kissed both Gabriel and Regan on the cheek, and ran out of Serenity after her husband.
The Tams stood silently, holding onto each other in shock.
“Mal, you got a second?” Hank’s voice sounded tinnily over the ship com, breaking the quiet.
Mal looked at his first mate. “Zoe, make sure everything’s tied down. Soon as we’re gone, I want Kaylee to be able to lock the ship up ‘til no-one can get in ‘cept us, and even then only if we use the right password.”
“You want anything from your bunk while I’m upstairs?”
“No, sir.” She touched the backpack at her feet. “I got everything I need right here.”
His wife smiled slightly. “My coat, if you’re getting yours. I think it feels a little chilly today.”
“You got it.” He took the stairs two at a time, knowing exactly why she wanted her coat, and it wasn’t because she was at all cold. It was the same reason he wanted his. It was what they were, Independents, and wearing that brown meant maybe they could live to see this through.
But first …“Hank.”
“Hi, Mal.” The pilot turned in his seat and grinned, his hair standing like an untidy brown halo around his head from where he’d been rubbing his hands distractedly through it. “Thought for a moment you weren’t gonna make it back this time.”
“I had my doubts too. Briefly.” He moved forward to scan the board. “You get the formulas?”
Hank nodded. “Just now. I’ve got it all ready to fly , but … what do you want the message to say?”
“What it is. And just three more words. Pass it on.”
Hank swallowed hard. “Just that?”
“Yeah. They don’t need to know who sent it.”
“Will you be able to get it through?”
“Not yet,” Hank admitted. “There’s sophisticated jamming equipment being used. But once that‘s knocked out there won‘t be a problem.”
“Good.” Mal studied the other man. “Was that it? Only you could have asked me this over the com, and I ain’t exactly got time to be chasing up and down stairs just to start holding your hand.”
“Well, I …” Hank dropped his head to stare at his fingers.
“Spit it out.”
Raising his head quickly, there was something in his grey eyes Mal wasn’t sure he’d ever seen before on his pilot. “Look after Zoe for me, Mal. Don’t let her get dead. Or I won’t be held responsible for my actions.”
“Are you threatening me?”
“Yes.” He thrust his chin out, almost daring the other man to hit him.
Instead Mal laughed. “Good. About time you grew a pair, least when it comes to Zoe. And she tends to look after me, or hadn’t you noticed?”
Surprised beyond belief, Hank could only say, “It … has come to my attention.”
“Hank, I can’t promise something I don’t know I can keep. But I’ll say this. She’s got as good a chance of living through this as any of us, probably better’n most, just ‘cause she’s Zoe. That do you?”
“I … guess.”
“Good.” Mal walked off the bridge, heading for his bunk. Dropping down the access hatch, he quickly gathered what he needed, including Freya’s coat, and was just glancing into the empty nursery when he heard Hank yell.
“Mal! We got company!”
He jumped up the ladder to the corridor. “Ubermann?”
“Nope. Big, shiny Alliance Cruisers, three of ‘em, and they don’t look like they’re coming to see the sights.”
Mal’s jaw dropped. “When?”
“Oh, about the same time the Reavers get here.”
In his mind’s eye Mal could see the last battle they’d encountered, when Wash flew them through the jaws of hell as Alliance and Reavers fought to the death. “Well, looks like we’re all here,” he murmured, then stood upright to punch the ship com. “People, time’s run out on us. We leave. Now.”
He didn’t need to hear the intakes of breath to know the tension on board had just skyrocketed.
“Wuh de mah,” Hank moaned.
“Keep my boat warmed over. I doubt they’re gonna bother too much with you, but if you see trouble coming, you take off, hide in the mountains. Permaybehaps the Reavers won’t come looking for you there.”
“Just think, Hank. You’re in charge. Just like you always wanted. ‘Cept if anyone comes to find out, tell ‘em you were only obeying orders.” He flashed a grin. “You just do what I tell you. Someone has to be around to go pick up the kids.” He ran full pelt for the cargo bay, vanishing around the corner.
Hank stared, then realised this was the version of Mal Reynolds hardly anyone ever got to see. The man who’d kept his men together throughout the final battle, who’d believed so hard it nearly broke him when Command didn’t come through. He licked suddenly dry lips and muttered, “Yeah, Mal. No problem.”
to be continued
Monday, November 17, 2008 7:33 AM
Monday, November 17, 2008 8:01 AM
Monday, November 17, 2008 9:57 AM
Monday, November 17, 2008 11:48 AM
Monday, November 17, 2008 5:41 PM
Tuesday, November 18, 2008 4:49 PM
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